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Jenolan Caves - Suffering From Elation
A Survivor's Tale
Jenolan Caves
For those who've been listening to me go on about the Jenolan Caves and are thinking, "Whu?" (I like to tell myself that at least a few of you have managed that level of interest), check out the official website: http://www.jenolancaves.org.au. They're a grand network of limestone caves located in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, New South Wales. To date they haven't been mapped completely; some areas are inaccessible, some dangerous, and you can bet your buttons that there are quite a few that haven't even been discovered yet.

I started researching Jenolan Caves last year for the book I'm writing... well, "writing" is a misnomer. I'm still planning, me and a hundred little index cards colluding on the couch for a stolen hour or two every weekend, or a few hurried minutes on the bus in the morning. The point is this: If I'm writing a book that features the Jenolan Caves as a primary setting, I'm going to have to do my research. There's nothing worse than reading a fantasy book with a cave setting (and you see a lot of them) where the caves are depicted unrealistically; dry and smooth and tidy. Real caves are rocky, rubble-y, damp and dank and full of bats. It's the feel for the real Jenolan I want to take away from my four-point-five day trip.

So the other day, using the website's cave tours timetable as a guide, I drew up an itinery that allows me to experience every currently-operating cave tour at Jenolan. There are two exceptions: one of the Adventure Tours which only operates at a time of the month when I simply won't be around, the Ribbon Cave tour, which overlaps the Aladdin Cave adventure tour on Sunday (and neither of those can be done on any other day, so I had to choose), and the Jubilee Cave tour, for which there are no available times on the website. I have to call ahead about that one, hopefully there'll be a tour planned at a time I can squeeze in.

I'm also going to miss out on the Wyburds Cave tour, which is a six-hour bushwalk that encompasses three caves, but is available for group bookings only.

The following are the caves I will be exploring. Starred entries are the 'adventure' caves. 'Adventure' translates to 'crawling around in the muck in overalls, knee pads and a hard hat and doing a lot of rope-assisted climbing and abseiling' which will - and I say this without the slightest trace of irony - make me happier than a pig in mud. It will also make me muddier than a pig in mud.

Tuesday night: Arrive in the mountains, crash with the generous rhianimated.

Wednesday: Bus to Jenolan, check in to backpacker's. Chifley Cave, Lucas Cave, Nettle Cave, Devil's Coach House, plus exploring the surrounding area alone.

Thursday: Orient Cave, Plughole descent*.

Friday: Explore more of the surrounding area alone, River Cave, Temple of Baal.

Saturday: Pool of Cerberus, Imperial Cave, Diamond Cave, night-time "Myths, Legends & Ghosts" tour.

Sunday: Aladdin tour*, fly home.

Some of those days look a bit unbalanced, but the adventure tours run for two to three hours each, whereas the ordinary cave tours only run for one to two hours. I've got all the start and end times in here, and have left time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I've also identified where I am to stay and where I can get food at different times of the day, which transport to take from the Sydney city to the mountains and back again, and how much the tours / accomodation / transport will cost. The upshot is that I need to save a minimum of $650 and a maximum (safer) of $800 by August 27th, so in just under two months. The good news is that I have no less than FIVE paydays between now and then, and I've been managing to set aside $200 per pay easily to take off my credit card, so saving the amount won't be a problem.

I shudder to think how much more expensive it'd be if I had to pay for my flights. Bless you, work... blerk. ;)

I'll be staying alone at the backpacker's hostel at Jenolan, as this proved less expensive than staying with a nearby friend and taking the tour bus in daily. The website states that Telstra mobiles get reception at Jenolan, so I assume that my Optus mobile will not. I'll be out of touch for those few days, but that'll help me focus.

The countdown begins!
9 have fought ~ fight the power!
scoutlostthewar From: scoutlostthewar Date: June 26th, 2008 11:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

I know this actually has nothing to do with your trip and that the trip actually sounds well awesome. I can give you the number of my cousin down there if you like. He's fucking awesome, if a tad unreliable who would love this shit or to generally hang out. Plus you can report back to me on his new bf *snicker*

But yeah OMG facepalm bear has the cutes!
tania From: tania Date: June 27th, 2008 12:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Bear macros now! More and more creatures continue to advance on the rightful territory of the cat.

I probably won't have time to hang out with anyone but Rhi (and her, only for a night) on this trip - I've basically filled my schedule to the brim. XP This is a working holiday of sorts. BUT the Melbourne trip is going to be completely opposite, nothing but hanging out and partying all the way - booyah!
chrystena From: chrystena Date: June 26th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ive been in the caves there, but only two, The Cathedrel, and I cant remember the name of the other :)
ranshire From: ranshire Date: June 27th, 2008 12:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go!

Um, so yeah. Sounds like a blast! Enjoy yourself, and don't break anything too vital!
peterchayward From: peterchayward Date: June 30th, 2008 10:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Well not IN the mountains...

I used to live in the Blue Mountains! We went to Jenolan Caves every year for our family holiday!
tania From: tania Date: June 30th, 2008 09:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well not IN the mountains...

Lucky!! I've wanted to go all my life, since my dad told me about them when I was nine...
rhianimated From: rhianimated Date: July 1st, 2008 03:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Hiya! Sounds like you've filled up your schedule alright! I'm still not exactly sure when you were planning to come down (I've probably read over it in your post somewhere and missed it :P), so just drop me an email when you know the dates so's I can write it on my calendar :) The night-time tour sounds fantastic!. Have you ever heard of a book called 'The Wizard of Jenolan'? It's a children's picture book with some beautiful illustrations of the caves, I'll see if I can dig it out for you when you visit!
tania From: tania Date: July 1st, 2008 03:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, I'd love to take a look at that book! I'd heard of it but haven't ever seen it in person. :)

I'll be rocking up the night of August 26th, which is a Tuesday, and that's the night I was hoping to crash at your place. Heading home Sunday night the 31st. So psyched right now!
rhianimated From: rhianimated Date: July 1st, 2008 03:22 am (UTC) (Link)

The 26th sounds great! Depending on what time you get into the mountains, I'd love to take you out to dinner somewhere in Katoomba on the Tuesday night, but we'll see what happens! I'm psyched for you!
9 have fought ~ fight the power!